No case for village green complaint?

The National Association of Local Councils is to be asked to look into the overall application process for village greens after Honiton Town Council raised concerns following a recent case considered by Devon County Council.

Councillors are smarting after a group of residents won village green status for a site the town council had already earmarked for long-awaited allotments.

The decision to approach the national association was taken by councillors during a policy and finance committee meeting last week, after reading a report prepared by the deputy clerk over possible maladministration claims.

The report examined the handling of an application to register land at Honiton Bottom Road as a village green.

Concerns were raised previously, after Devon County Council agreed to extend the consultation period beyond the normal time allowed.

A discrepancy between information in the application and on the subsequent legal notice was brought to the attention of the town council and more time was given for further comments to be made.

But concerns have been raised that the applicants were able to include additional information, which the town council had no knowledge of and, under the current procedures, it is not obliged to do so.

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Councillors John Taylor and Roy Coombes felt the procedure may have disadvantaged the public and raises concerns about the process as a whole.

Councillor Taylor said he felt the town council had been disadvantaged, because it did not know about the final evidence that was put in the application.

“Consultation was only extended to the council and there was no public notice of anything. They needed to extend the public consultation and not just extend it to the council.

“It put a disadvantage to the town council and the town as well, because we didn’t know the final evidence that had been put in the application by the developer.

Councillor Taylor felt it was problematic in that the council did not have a chance to comment on new material that was submitted in the application at a late stage. He said: “It certainly put us at a very big disadvantage and the public was put in an even greater disadvantage. They didn’t write to any other interested party - they just wrote to us.”

The deputy clerk’s report suggested that a claim for maladministration would be difficult to substantiate, as the county solicitor had twice confirmed that standard process had been followed.

She also said that, although there were difficulties in obtaining application details during the public consultation, Devon County Council acted to resolve this by extending the consultation period.

Policy committee chairman Nick Cornwell recommended that, subject to clarification of a time limit for submitting a maladministration claim, the issue surrounding procedures for village green applications be raised with the National Association of Local Councils